Green Belt, the Pen is Mightier than the Sword! The Minister has Spoken! Apparently.

Castle Point Conservatives have issued this statement:

CASTLE POINT GREEN BELT CAN BE SAVED – WE HAVE IT IN WRITING!

Planning Minister Brandon Lewis has confirmed that green belt is a legitimate constraint for the number of homes the council can plan for in their new local plan.

This confirmation came in a letter to Castle Point Council Leader, Cllr Colin Riley, following a meeting of leading officers and Conservative councillors held at Westminster arranged by local Conservative MP Rebecca Harris.

Mr Lewis wrote “The Government’s Manifesto commitment to protecting green belt, sets out the great importance of the green belt and the green belt boundaries which can only be revised through the local plan process.The letter made it clear, the Minister said during his statement in parliament: that development need, does not automatically equal supply and it is entirely legitimate for Castle Point to consider the level of development to be accommodated in a Green Belt area, based on evidence of constraints to all development including Green Belt.

Commenting on the letter Cllr Riley said “This confirmation is exactly what was needed, with this extra confidence I intend to submit the letter to our Task & Finish Group as important evidence, and will push even harder to get an acceptable plan for our Borough that takes full account of resident’s interests.”

Benfleet Conservative Councillor, Cllr Skipp, whose Appleton Ward borders the Jotman’s Green Belt site said “I could not be more pleased with the letter from the Minister. I cannot speak for the Canvey Island Independent Party or UKIP but I hope the whole council will now unite to thoroughly explore protecting the Green Belt sites that residents cherish, across Benfleet, Hadleigh, Thundersley and Canvey Island”.

Cllr Cross, Conservative member for St Mary’s Ward said:
“I hope the confirmation can be used to support the council’s case in the upcoming appeals by developers on Green Belt applications. This is a very powerful letter and needs to be included fully”

It’s a shame that councillor Skipp appears to have included Canvey as an after thought, but at least we are included!

Now there can be no Complaints or hand wringing and excuses.

The advice is clear.

Or is it? The response I am led to believe is dated mid April, 4 months for the cabinet to mull over and digest appears extensive. I also gather that the issue of gardens outside of an urban area (green field) could be treated as brownfield. Leading to areas I assume such as the H18 and Felstead Road as being “eligible” for development. Some serious Plan making soul searching is required.

Why, according to the wording of the conservative statement, was a letter of confirmation still required if officers were in attendance with our MP and selected councillors? Did the officers not come away with the same interpretation as councillors? Did some councillors disagree with other councillors interpretation?

With the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment indicating the Castle Point housing supply to the end of the Plan period being in the region of 6,000 homes (I am assuming this will only include  2-300 at the Blinking Owl site), it leads to wonder how the local authority will apply the development constraints defence.

Up until now the obsession has been over Green Belt. Quite wrongly Flood Risk has featured a distant second.

With regard Green Belt, for the boundary to be altered, the criteria must be CPBC will defend at all cost an area that fulfils one of the Green Belt functions.

Interestingly all current Green Belt sites must achieve this otherwise they would not have warranted inclusion in the Green Belt in the first place.

Then the decision should be made, if previously developed Green Belt is to be reviewed, what is the criteria? How much harm, otherwise how strategically placed is the area if release from the GB is warranted.

Proposed Green Belt housing sites IN the Castle Point daft New Local Plan on Canvey Island are also in a Flood Zone!

It will be interesting to hear an Inspector’s views when considering the local authorities evidence to support this.

There is a Local Plan Task and Finish group meeting this Monday, let’s see what SOS message rings out!

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9 responses to “Green Belt, the Pen is Mightier than the Sword! The Minister has Spoken! Apparently.

  1. What does this site really want ? A great letter from a minister clearly defining where needed housing can and cannot be built , and what does the blogger say , (why did a Benfleet Cllr not say Canvey first when mentioning the areas of our Borough !! )
    Constraints of flooding infrastructure and Now clearly green belt are usable in the preparation of the local plan . We still need homes , of course we do . But this allows the council to reduce substantially the numbers shown as needed.
    I have been supportive of thei site since it started and I hope they believe I have been helpful to them as and when I can , but I am really getting frustrated with the continuing sniping against the mainland councillors . Why not demand your Island cllrs work with us to produce a plan that suits all and gets past the inspector ? .

    • Thanks Bill, the Post clearly says a lot more than your mis-quoted reference to Cllr Skipp.
      As yet little favourable as regards Canvey has been produced on paper.
      Since the early Core Strategy days Canvey has been, if not the preferred site, promoted as developable.
      I am certain you can excuse that.
      We have little affiliation.
      We note in your comment you have mentioned flooding ahead of green belt when you mention constraints, we are grateful for your doing so, you will be aware the suffering of many in the district.
      Keep up the good work

  2. Draft New Local Plan
    Proposal Site H18
    Land at North West Thundersley
    This huge site clearly has green belt qualities that should be protected, however it is understandable that during the site selection process Councillors sought some merit in promoting it as an alternative to other popular adopted green belt sites identified for development. This was undertaken in the hope that in doing so it would go some way to saving their constituents valued environments.

    Events have moved on since this initial aspiration in that the Councils New Local Plan strategy as to why Objectively Assessed Needs could not be realised was on the basis of constraints. The most supported constraint being that land designated as Green Belt, unless material considerations indicate otherwise, should be protected from development. Clearly by the introduction and support offered for site H18 for development must cause the argument of green belt being a constraint to be severely compromised.

    Some would say that the introduction of the site H18 for development , has led to the likelihood that this site will be considered to be available as-well-as and not in-stead –of other green belt sites for further development opportunity. Objectively Assessed Housing needs can now be seen to be achievable in the medium to long term by the seeming willingness to release green belt in order to a satisfy the Soundness of the councils NLP.

    Flood risks, along with green belt, is identified at footnote 9 of the NPPF, as an issues that should attract policies giving protection from development sites on Canvey Island. Following the resent severe surface water flooding incidents never has there been a clearer example of the recommendations, from a plethora of sources that should restrain large scale development on the defended flood cells of Canvey Island.

    The NPPF is quite clear at paragraph 83 that Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances through the review of the Local Plan. It would not be unreasonable to suggest that the Green Belt Boundaries forming part of Site H18 should be altered so as to accommodate those areas of flood risk selected for development on the basis of being sequentially viable. This would not only be seen as an exceptional circumstance, but undoubtedly a sound reason for a green belt boundary change.

  3. H18 is a large site as Steve has said and some of it , yes has green belt benefits , but a great deal does not and as I understand it that is the area being looked at .
    The officers are saying the site could be used as well as rather than instead of other sites . The members are the voters on this matter and they will use the constraints of green belt and the five reasons why something is designated as green belt as their defence to that statement . And hopefully select certain parts of H18 which do not fit the criteria of green belt , whilst also adding to the infrastructure benefits.
    Green belt boundaries can only be changed during the local plan process , and we need to look at all the areas and then decide by using the constraints aforementioned whether any need changing or not . They will then be protected until 2031 …

  4. Thanks for this response Bill and although it has been enlightening it promotes further conversation.
    H18 is shown on the Proposals Map as green belt which would need a boundary change as I understand, to have it reclassified.
    You may also be able to explain why if not hidden, the Ministers response letter was not championed when it was received by the Officer dealing with the correspondences. This document is important to all those campaigners endeavouring to protect their environments and should have been released or exposed as soon as possible as a matter of respect to all.

  5. This debate has identified that the possibility and suitability of the H18 site was not thoroughly explored initially. Many wasted years have passed since the Core Strategy days. Whether the site, to its full extent, is suitable and deliverable, whether the site should be removed from the Green Belt, or not, a consultation process is required.
    The resultant confusion is concerning, removing one previously developed site from the Green Belt may influence a decision on another previously developed site. Part development in the green Belt, will offer developers the opportunities to propose further infill development.
    Whilst the reconsideration and readjustment of the Green Belt boundary “should” offer protection during the Plan period, should the proposed developments not be forthcoming at the rate of dwellings per annum evidenced, then sites identified as reserved will be vulnerable before their estimated time frame, as maybe other more sustainable viable and lucrative sites outside of the Plan’s identified preferences.
    We were re-assured that “no stone had been left unturned” and the current draft New Local Plan was the only option, at the time. Now Government Guidance suggests that may not be the case, however the impression is given that there is a requirement to fulfil a Local Plan by 2017. Will that date also alter along the way, whilst many local authorities struggle to complete a Plan within the timeframe?
    The danger lies with hurrying a Plan along, as much as an out of date plan may influence Appeal findings.
    The time for further Consultation may have disappeared. Will evidence be forthcoming to support a changed Local Plan? For only a change of Plan being presented to full Council appears likely to receive support from the majority of resident groups.

  6. As I have said many time before Officers only read into the NPPF what they wanted to read.
    They never considered the misery that some of these sites that were identified in SHLAA 2012/13. If they had the will they could have taken all Green Belt on Canvey and the mainland out of the Draft Local Plan even being told many times by residents and ministers this is not what Benfleet nor Canvey Island wanted.
    Remember we put councilors where they are today and they have a duty to work for residents they are our voice in council chambers.
    When I read reports true or not some Canvey Councillors are for BUILDING ON GREEN BELT they need to stop sitting on the fence and come straight out and say NO to any possibility of plans being passed.
    It is not a question of them and us all this proposed houses will cause chaos for all residents whether they live on Canvey Island or Mainland.
    Green Belt campaigners have worked hard to try and convince Officers and residents that protection is the name of the game so lets hope this latest letter from RH Brandon Lewis will change everything for the better we live on hope.

  7. The press release from the leader was issued within ten days of receiving the letter from the minister . The letter to officers you mention I know nothing of I am afraid . Yes Steve the H 18 will need a boundary change . As I ahve said year on year defend what we can defend and release what we have to ..

  8. I would like to support Sue Buhr in her cry that we should be united on this. Greenbelt is Greenbelt and is was designated so for a reason.

    One of the most important reasons we should protect it is because it acts as our Green Lung

    Positioned as we are on the SE Corner of Essex, we have some of the busiest and most congested roads in the country.

    Air Pollution

    The endless flow of traffic on our, oh so congested Roads and Air Pollution from the Aircraft (We are on the flight paths of Heathrow, Stanstead, Gatwick, Luton & the ever expanding Southend Airports.)

    The harm to health is palpable.

    We believe all Greenbelt should be protected, be it on Canvey or the Mainland. Sustainable development does not mean Development at any cost and should not adversley affect the lives of future generations.

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